Thundercat: Thunder on the mountain

Thundercat | Mark Thompson photo

It was a difficult decision as to whether to take in Bjork’s headlining show or that of Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, probably the busiest bass player in hip-hop. His topped the Field of Heaven roster on Sunday, and while a lot of the bands who played there this weekend weren’t much into the jam band aesthetic that was the original concept for the stage, Thundercat’s canny blend of yacht rock, fusion and hip-hop actually did. Accompanied by a drummer and a keyboard player who had to really cook to keep up with Thundercat’s hyperactive playing and singing, Bruner was expansive in the most literal sense, opening up his poppy R&B into full-blown bebop, with him and his partners challenging one another to supersonic solo flashes.

And he was clearly enjoying himself. Though his vocals, purposely mimicking the original yacht rock vocalist, Michael McDonald, were the main affair, it was his bass playing that stole the show. He’d get on a rip and take it farther than it could possibly go, faster, more complicated, and more beat-savvy. The audience just stood there slack-jawed, barely comprehending a hip-hop artist who dared attempt serious jazz, and yet it worked on both accounts. The fact that he was laughing and carrying on through the whole think just proved how confident his was. And confidence saved the day.

Thundercat | Mark Thompson photo